Tag Archives: parents

Your Heart Just Gets Larger

26 Jan

Recently my cousin uncovered a photo, I had never seen before. When my Grandma Esther died, my Dad and his siblings divided up the family photos.  My cousin is now investigating the ones in her Dad and Mom’s album. This photo actually had something written on the back of it.  And I am the one with the story, because of my story.


When I married, I never expected infertility. I was in love, we were healthy, there were no problems. So when decided to get pregnant, I was devastated when we seemed unable to have children.

After the first year , I was sent on to a specialist and started on years of tests, surgeries and medical treatments.  Throughout this all, I had one major supporter, my Grandma Esther.  In her late 80s, Grandma was not one to let me give up. During a time when long distance phone calls cost extra before 11 pm, Grandma became my late night phone call.

I lived in Kansas, so when my phone rang after 10 pm, I knew it was an East Coast call. If it was not my parents, it was Grandma Esther with advise!  Her first calls were to tell me that she also had problems when she first tried to have children. She told me to stop stressing and go to the ocean. She and grandpa went to the ocean and she got pregnant with my uncle.

Well, I could not go to the ocean from Kansas. But I felt the love. Over the next few years Grandma’s phone calls came with more involved medical advise. I could see in my mind’s eye, multitudes of grandmas sitting around and coming up with cures.

Eventually I did have a healthy baby girl. My Grandma was so excited. At age 88, she flew to Kansas to be here for my daughter’s naming. Grandma’s advise did not end. Having nursed three infants, she was an expert. She announced one day that I was doing it all wrong. “If you are going to nurse, you need to do it the right way,” she said. With in minutes she had placed cushions and a footstool around me, and nursing became so much easier.

I wish I could say that was the end of my struggles, but it was not. I was unable to have another pregnancy. But I was not done with motherhood. My husband and I turned to adoption.

It was not easy. We had two strikes against us. One, we already had one child. Two, we were Jewish. Agencies in Kansas were basically religion based. We were told we could register, but when a better qualified (Christian) family came, we would be put to the back of the line.  We tried private adoption. But two weeks before the baby was born, the mom changed her mind. Again difficult.

Finally we found the Adam’s Center, a local agency that helped Jewish families.  No longer in existence, it helped about three dozen families adopt babies. Not all were Jewish.  We were one of the fortunate ones, and our son arrived.

My Dad was a bit nervous about this. On his way home from a business trip in California, he stopped in Kansas to meet his newest grandson. My sister called in advance, “Dad is nervous that he won’t love him the same.”

No worries. Dad arrived. I put the baby in his arms. My Dad looked up and said, “how could you not love that punim, that face.”  And then he told me, “With each child and grandchild, you do not split the love you have. No your heart just gets bigger and bigger.”  My parents had big hearts.

Dad was still nervous about how his mother, my Grandma Esther, would react. As far as he knew, there had never been an adoption in the family. How little he knew.

Grandma was now 92.  She did not fly out, but she called. She was so happy and told me the story of her cousin, Messuganah Esther.  She told me  in the old days, early 1900s, people, who had no children,  often adopted orphan children. Most of the time they were related. But sometimes, they were the children of friends. I must say that orphan sometimes just meant one parent had died.

In any case, my Great Grandmother Ray, had a sister, Chamka.  When Chamka finally made it out of the Bialystok region to join her siblings in the USA, she was a widow with three young children. And she was pregnant.  What was she to do?  Her sister Sarah had no children. and Sarah had a good job and could support a child.  So when Chamka gave birth, the daughter Esther, was given to Sarah to raise. Because so many girls were named Esther, she received the nickname, Meshugganah Esther. (See previous blog, Too Many Esthers.)

The photo is touching. It shows Chamka (Champy) holding Meshugganah Esther’s daughter, Lenore.  And it tells part of the story on the back.


Needless to say, when I brought my son back East for the first time, my Grandma Esther showered him with the same love she gave every great grandchild. She had a handmade afghan waiting for him as she did for all 18 of her great grandchildren. Because in my family, with every child, grandchild and great grandchild, you do not divide your love, your heart only gets larger and able to hold more love.

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I Love Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

22 Nov

To me Thanksgiving always means staying in my pajamas and watching the Macy’s Day Parade. Yes the Macy’s Day Parade! That is what I called it as a child and that is what I still call it in my mind.

Growing up in the New York City metropolitan area meant that the Parade was an important part of our life. We lived close to Hoboken. And as ‘everyone’ knows the floats are built in Jersey, the giant balloons are stored in Jersey and the participants practice in Jersey.

As a child I remember my Dad driving us to Hoboken in order to drive up and down the streets of warehouses and peek in. You probably cannot do it anymore, but when I was a child it was possible.

I remember seeing the color guards and bands practicing in the street.

It was part of the annual build up to the great event itself! The parade.

I loved watching the parade on television. But most exciting was actually seeing the parade in person. My Grandma Esther was the executive secretary for shoe company’s whose headquarters were across the street from Macy’s!

The best year of my life was the time we all went into NYC to her office. We watched the parade in the warmth of her office through the giant windows overlooking the Avenue. It was tremendously exciting! I remember the balloons flying right past the windows. Wow. I had such joy. Did I say I love the giant ballooons. Many people make an annual trek just to see the balloons filled with helium!

I will admit getting there was a hassle and getting home was the worst. But seeing the parade in person was worth it. I still get a thrill just remembering.

Watching the parade on television November 23, 2017.

When my children were little, we would lie in bed together and watch the parade. To be honest, they were not excited as me. It did not matter. Thanksgiving morning the television stayed on the Parade channel.

Eventually my children moved out. But it does not matter to me. I need no excuses to watch the parade. When the Rockettes make their annual appearance I smile. When the bands play and the color guard twirl their flags I feel satisfaction. Each broadway show tune makes me want to see a play. And then their are my favorite floats like Sesamee Street!

When Thanksgiving morning arrives I will still stay in my pajamas. Get a mug of coffee. Cuddle with my cats. And spend three hours watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I cannot imagine a better way to spend a Thursday morning!

Waiting impatiently for Gilmore Girls

30 Sep


Two months to go and I can barely contain my excitement. I am one of the multitude of “Gilmore Girl” fans waiting to see the four episodes on Netflex that will update us on Lorelai and Rory.

When I think of “Gilmore Girls” I feel such joy. My daughter and I watched every episode together, even when she was at college.  It was our weekly mother/daughter event throughout her high school years.  It debuted during her freshman year of high school and ending during her junior of college.

We would talk about what happened and analyze every action and reaction. The relationships between mother and daughter; grandparents and mother; boyfriends; friends,   Each  gave us a starting point for intense communications. “Gilmore Girls”  was a great parenting tool.  It gave us a starting point and a comfortable way to ease into conversations. She was going through many of the same life cycle events as Rory: high School, dating, applying to college; going to college.  It was amazing.

While she was at college, we would watch the episodes separately, but then talk about them afterwards.  I would often save the episodes on our TiVo. Then we would watch them together, even though we had already seen them when they were first broadcasted.

When the show ended we were bereft. I purchased the seven season dvd set for my daughter.  Occasionally we would watch a few episodes.  But we never forgot about the Gilmores or their town or their friends.

My son wanted to have a show to watch with me like I watched with my daughter.  We thought we found that show in “Chuck.”  It was great for one season, but then the writers’ strike prematurely ended the second season. We never got back into it.  We tried. But “Chuck,” was no “Gilmore Girls.”

Luckily, years later, ‘The Big Bang Theory’ arrived on television. I finally had a show to watch with my son. Of course he no longer lives with us, but we still discuss it now and then.

A friend of mine, who only has sons, had never heard of the “Gilmore Girls.”  When she was ill,  I gave her my seven season set for her to watch and enjoy.  I would go to her house, and while she rested from her treatments, we would put on an episode.  I am sorry to say we never got past the first season before she became too ill.  But the few episodes she did watch entertained her. Neither of us could understand how she had never heard of this great show.

The intelligence of the show, the love and loyalty, the quick conversations all came together in the perfect combination.  It was a wonderful family show.  The only show I could compare it to was “Little House on the Prairie.”  Also a family show, but a fictionalized account of a real family, Little House entertained me for years.  I loved that show almost as much as watching the Gilmores.  As an adult, I journeyed to Mansfield, Missouri, to visit the Wilder home and see the family’s artifacts.

But I will admit, that even Little House can not compare to my intense appreciation for all things Gilmore.  Best show ever.

Now we have four more episodes to watch.  The teasers are making me crazy with excitement.  I have seen some of the original cast talk about the new episodes on talk shows, and the excitement builds.  I even purchased a magazine to read about the plans. Oy, a bit obsessed.

Even though my daughter is married and lives halfway around the Earth, we will be discussing the Gilmore girls when they return to enrich our lives.  I only hope these episodes can meet my outrageous expectations.

Joyous Occasions in Discovered In Yiddish

14 Mar
IMG_6556

My Uncle Bernie and part of the article about his bar mitzvah.

 

Besides articles about my Great Grandfather Louis Goldman/Baruch Lev Litwack, there were also announcements of family events in the Bialystoker Stimme magazines under the title “Simcha by Landslight,”   or “Joyous Events by our community members.”   I found three events in Yiddish about my extended family members, which my friend, Blumah, translated for me as well.

The first was about my Uncle Bernie, or Bernard, about his bar mitzvah:

“A nice bar mitzvah party took place on Shabbat. The 11 of June by Mr. Bernard.  A nice, accomplished young man, the son Mr. and Mrs. H Rosenberg and the grandson of our dear friends and active community members Louis and Ray Goldman from the Bronx.

A nice private group of close family celebrated by the simcha. They wished much nachas to the parents from this bar mitzvah boy.

As is well known, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman, the grandfather and grandmother, are actively in the Bialystoker Center and the Ladies Auxiliary.

Mr. Goldman is now the president of the Bialystoke charity organization that was the Bialystoke Free loan society: Bialystoke Somech Noflim, (It was started in 1886 in the USA.) This is he oldest charity association that the Bialystoke started.

We wish the zayde and bubie, and the parents to live to have much nachas and much joy from Bernard and the other children.”

I loved that even in an announcement of my uncle’s bar mitzvah, it was important to the writer to list my great grandfather and great grandmother’s accomplishments in the Bialystoke societies.   I am thinking it is to give them even more ‘kovod,’ honor. Or perhaps it is to encourage others to volunteer?

In later years, when the Bialystoker Stimme had more English, there is another Bar Mitzvah announcement for my father. But it is much shorter and written in English.

One of my father’s cousin’s is also mentioned in “Joyous Occasions.” My Dad’s first cousin David M. made the Yiddish paper, in a shorter and less flowery article.

“The Goldman’s talented grandson, David M., graduates with honors. The 16 year old grandson of our active members, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman, of the Bronx. He just graduated from Townsend Harris High School. He was immediately accepted in City College. We wish the parents Mr. and Mrs. Eli Marks and the grandparents of David much nachas from their very capable David.”

The final “Joyous Occasion” in Yiddish was my great Uncle Sam’s wedding announcement, for his first marriage. I never knew the woman mentioned in this announcement. But I do know that they had one daughter. I honestly only remember meeting her when I was a young child. I think the family lost touch with her.

“Sunday Dec. 11, our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman brought their youngest child to the Huppah: Samuel with the beautiful, intelligent Miss Otta Schmuckler. The wedding was private, and the supper was afterwards celebrated in Central Plaza, where many friends from both sides were part of the joyous occasion.

We wish Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman and the young couple much nachas.”

The only thing I can say about this announcement is that I always thought his first wife’s name was Yetta. And that might have been the name she used in English.

Every one of these little Yiddish articles is like a jewel for me. I find out tiny bits about my family’s life in the 1920 – 1940s. I see pieces of my Dad’s childhood. He probably was at all these simchas: his brother’s bar mitzvah, his cousin’s graduation party, his uncle’s wedding. We do have a few photos from this time. But I have never seen the photos of my uncle and my Dad’s cousin that shown in these articles.

The Bialystoker Stimme continues to be a treasure for me and I hope for my family.

 

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

 

Louis of the Blessed Heart

8 Mar
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A photo of my great grandfather, Louis Goldman, and the article about him.

 

I knew my great grandfather, Louis Goldman, had a good heart. His Hebrew name, Baruch Lev, ‘blessed heart,’ echoed his kindness. Now thanks to the books I found in the Catskills’ bookcase, I know even more of what a “mensch” and a “guttah neshumah” he was to many people.

I found two larger articles about my great grandfather in the bound Bialystoker Stimme magazines I found last summer. And finally, I was able to meet with my friend, Blumah, who translated these articles for me. What a blessing and what a joy! This blog is about one of the articles.

The article from 1938 honors him on the 50th anniversary of his arrival in America. So I now know that he arrived in 1888, when he was a teen. I already knew he married my great grandmother in January 1894.

The article is in praise of Louis Goldman, born Baruch Lev Litvak.  This is paraphrased, but close to the translation:

“It is already 50 years that Goldman is an American, and he still looks like a young man. He remembers things as if he had just yesterday came off the ship. He is like a walking encyclopedia,   He knows things as if they are ‘in his vest pocket.’ In general he knows many people.

He has the honor of being president of the oldest Bialystoker organization the ‘Somach Naflim,’ helping the fallen (Free Loan Society). And he is the vice president of the Center. (Bialystoker Home for the Aged.)

He acts with great warm love with the Home for the Aged. ‘He is the one and only one in the way he gives love and warmth, there is nobody that can be compared to him.’

In addition to bringing in friends whom he strongly interested in this project (Home for the Aged), his beloved institution, he also brought in his wife, children and grandchildren to be involved.

The grandchildren Goldman are already involved.   (This included my Dad and his siblings.)

With out a doubt, the children and grandchildren honor their father/ grandfather. If these children do not outshine him, they will put out less effort.   They will not do less than what you expect a human being to achieve.

Such an exceptional feeling!

From good dough, the saying goes, good baked goods will come out. (Such a wonderful analogy as his parents were bakers.)

Few fathers and grandfathers have the merit to have such an influence on their families. Especially in our world .

We are proud of the true, great honor of Louis Goldman!

A little bit of jealousy we could feel about him. But we still hope that he will bring his great grandchildren to the same level.”

WOW! My heart was so filled with love  and joy as Blumah read and translated for me.  Some of the words I could understand with my limited Yiddish.  But the overall sentiment was so loving. It made me proud to be his great granddaughter.

My Great Grandfather’s legacy continues into the next generations.   My Dad was president of his synagogue for 11 years and remained on the board until his death. My parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles would go to the Bialystoker Home for the Aged benefit dinners each year.

I continue work for the Jewish community as a board member of our synagogue, and many other Jewish and secular organizations.

My daughter works for the Peres Center for Peace in Yaffo, Israel. I think my great grandfather, her great, great grandfather would kvell with naches.

But it is not just my immediate family that continues in this tradition. My siblings, my cousins and their children also live a life of gemalut chasidim, doing good works.

I believe that our ancestor, Louis Goldman would be proud of us as we are of his good works.

The gene to do good, to be agents of tzedakah, is strong in our family. It is our Force. And I am so proud to be descendant from this man, Baruch Lev. Louis of the blessed heart.

 

(See links below to other blogs about Louis and the books I found.)

Mensch, good person; Guttah Neshuman, A good soul; Kvell, bursting with pride; Naches, proud enjoyment; Gemalut chasidm, doing good works.

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/08/16/treasures-in-the-bookcase/

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/another-bialystok-treasure-investigated/

 

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/take-mom-to-work-day-at-the-peres-center-for-peace-in-jaffa-israel/

 

I Want My Sandy Back: Our Short Duration of Dog Ownership in 1961

6 Mar

When I was about six years old my father got us a dog. Sandy, a beautiful Cocker Spaniel, was so wonderful   We were in the Catskills for the summer when Dad brought the dog to the bungalow. My brother and I were ecstatic.

My sister was just a toddler, so I am not sure how she felt, but she seemed to love the dog as well. Her favorite game was to ride Sandy like a horse. Since she was so little, and Sandy so active, they both had a good time.   My sister seems to remember that the horse riding was my idea. That could have been, I loved horses!

We got to name him, because the dog’s given name was Harry, which was my grandfather’s name. So the first thing we did was have a family conference to name the dog. His name matched his color, a beautiful golden brown.

We often let Sandy run free on the fenced in front lawn of the bungalow colony, right outside our front door. My other grandfather would stand and laugh at the dog running crazy circles. He would scratch his head and say in Yiddish, “Look at that meshuggahan hundt (crazy dog)!”

The summer was wonderful. It was easy to take Sandy on walks, and he had space to run around in the bungalow colony. But then Labor Day came and it was time to return to North Bergen.

We lived in the second floor apartment of a three-story home on Third Avenue.   Sandy was not as happy there as he had been in the Catskills, even though my brother, sister and I showered love on our dog. His adventures became mainly indoor adventuress; not great for an outdoor dog.

In fact, my brother remembers that my parents would put Sandy in the bathroom at night, so he would not roam the apartment. One Sunday morning, my brother got up early and went to the bathroom. He found my young sister wrapping the dog in all the toilet paper!

“What a mess to clean up as he ran around the apartment trailing toilet paper!” My brother remembered.

Actually, overall, having a dog in our apartment was not going very well.

My parents and my brother were usually the ones to walk him. It was a hassle to get him down the stairs and out to the street several times a day. My brother and I were in school. And my Mom was home with my sister, who was still sleeping in a crib. I think my Mom was getting very tired of dog ownership.

Then one day I offered to take Sandy for a walk. I bundled up and took him downstairs. As we were walking, he pulled me into the street. Someone helped me get Sandy back on the sidewalk. I was not going to tell my MOM. But one of the neighbors did. (In those days, every neighbor was like another parent!)

That was the final straw for my Mom. Sandy had to go. “It was not safe to have a dog in the city. It was not fair to Sandy to be locked up in an apartment,” was what my parents told us.

My brother tried to talk them out of giving Sandy away. He promised to walk him every day, if they let us keep our dog. But it did not help.

Soon after that, my Dad found someone who had plenty of land to take Sandy. I still remember the day he came to take our pet. I hid Sandy under my sister’s crib and put the sides down. I put pillows all around to hide him. But it did not work. Sandy followed me out and left our lives forever.

I remember crying for days, “I Want MY Sandy back! I want my Sandy BACK!” I am sure my crying and whining drove my parents crazy. But they were patient and explained over and over how this was better for the dog.

Nothing worked. I never saw Sandy again. However, my parents did report back at least once, that he was loving his life on a farm.

To this day, I cannot watch Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” without thinking of my Sandy. This was my daughter’s favorite movie when she was a child. I watched it almost every day. Each time I watched I would think of my cocker spaniel.

I have never owned a dog after Sandy. My husband and I always had cats. I think part of the reason for me, was that I never wanted a dog to pull someone in the street and be sent away. Cats stay indoors and care for themselves in many ways.

It was just about five months that Sandy was in our family. He arrived in the early summer while we were in the Catskills and was gone by Hanukkah in North Bergen.

Many times I wished I lived in the Catskills throughout the year so that we could have kept Sandy.

Temple Beth El Has Closed, But It is Not Gone

15 Jan

I was sad when I learned through a North Bergen Facebook group that after 91 years, Temple Beth El on 75th Street in North Bergen was closing. This synagogue was where I spent most of my childhood, from third grade until I married. Right across the street from Robert Fulton Elementary School, Temple Beth El is where I spent four days each week in Hebrew School after I finished my secular classes.

I remember going to synagogue for holidays and Shabbat. I loved going when I was young because my great Uncle Leo and Tanta Esther belonged to Beth El. And Uncle Leo always had candy in his pocket. When we came to services he would slip us some candy. Uncle Leo was a very quiet man with a German accent. But when he put his hand in his suit jacket and brought out a sweet, a gentle smile would come over his face as he said, “here.” And handed over the candy.

When my brother and I would go by ourselves as we prepared for our confirmation classes, Uncle Leo was still there. And even though we were in our early teens, we made sure to sit next to him to get our candy!

I remember Cantor Ovstbaum and Rabbi Sidney Nissenbaum. The Cantor  wrote a Purim Spiel play using the melodies from the opera, “Carmen.” I can still sing some of the lyrics to these songs: “My name it is Vashti,” “Ahasverus, I the Glorious,” “Haman’s Seven Sons are We,” and more. I remember Ella P. who was Queen Esther. And my friends who all got singing parts like Shashi. I was not allowed to sing. But I still loved and remember those songs!

Walking to services with my Dad was fun. I especially enjoyed going to services for Succot, when they built the Succah in the small parking lot across the street from the synagogue.   I have so many good memories of the shul, the people, and my many friends who went there with me.

So when I read it was closing, I felt the pangs and sadness of the end to an era. It was a closure that completed with the deaths of my parents, another part of my childhood forever gone.

But then I had a revelation! I got a letter in the mail, which changed my feelings.

When my parents moved from North Bergen to Cliffside Park, they joined Temple Israel on Edgewater Road. My parents became extremely active in this congregation. My Dad served as president for 11 years! It was Rabbi Engelmeyer and the Cantor Peter and the congregants who were so kind to my parents as they aged and helped my Dad so much after my Mom died.   I loved the people of Temple Israel.

At Temple Israel in 2006. My Dad is with a scribe as they work on repairing older Torah scrolls.

At Temple Israel in 2006. My Dad is with a scribe as they work on repairing older Torah scrolls.

Although I never belonged there, I went to many services there with my parents and always heard so much about it whenever I spoke to my parents. It was at Temple Israel where we had a memorial service for my Mom. It was at Temple Israel that we endowed a library for my parents. It was at Temple Israel that we put up memorial plaques for my parents.

These two congregations were important to me even though I now live in Kansas. I still send donations several times a year in honor of my parents’ and other relatives’ yahrzeits.

So my revelation?   Temple Beth El was not closing. NO! It was merging with Temple Israel.   The new name is Congregation Beth Israel of the Palisades!

My Dad would be so happy. Throughout his years as president and board member, he was always searching for ways to keep the congregation alive and financially sound. With the combining of these congregations, perhaps they both will survive.

And in my mind, my Dad had a celestial part in the merging of these congregations. With Congregation Beth Israel of the Palisades the memory of my parents and my childhood continues.   Perhaps Uncle Leo never went to services in this sanctuary. But my parents and my siblings and my cousins and my parents friends all have sat there. I can close my eyes and see so many loved ones who are no longer with us.

Temple Beth El is not gone, even though many of the Jewish population have left North Bergen. It is still close by in another form. It has changed with time, as we all do. But it lives in my mind.